Monday, January 31, 2011

World Champion Wallabies

Left-right: Gary Waldon, Grant Hackett, KR, Tim Horan

It’s not often you get two double world champions from different sports coming around to sledge you on an injury.

Last Friday night I had 3 visitors from Australia.

I’ve known Tim Horan since 1990 when we worked together in the beer and rugby business in Australia. Tim is probably Australia’s best ever Center and would be in most people’s old time world 15’s. A proud Queenslander, a double world cup winner and an all round good bloke. He’s now working setting up a private banking practice for Westpac for Athletes and Entertainers; pretty smart niche. He suffered a similar injury to mine in somewhat more noble circumstances (a Super 10 Final) and recovered 100% which was reassuring. He was accompanied by triple Olympic Gold medalist swimmer, Grant Hackett, who won the 1500 meters Gold in the 2000 and the 2004 Olympics. Funny, smart, humble, like world champions used to be when we were growing up.

They were accompanied by their project director, Gary Waldon, who has the almost impossible task of trying to herd these two champion athletes into a cohesive unit. Their meetings so far in the US had been pretty entertaining. Their American guests hadn’t quite learned to figure out that sledging is a sign of respect not a precursor for open warfare.

We were planning to head on down to Cercle Rouge for a great night with chef Pierre, an ex French prop, but my crutches weren’t up to the 22 inches of snow, however, in the streets so the Wallabies went down alone. They have still not resurfaced.

Triple Olympic Gold Medalist Grant Hackett as Dr. Evil!

Save My Brother First

As Australia continues to experience the devastating impact of huge floods, the story of 13-year-old Jordan Rice has become a global inspiration. Caught in the powerful floodwaters, Jordan told rescuers “save my brother first” before he and his mother were swept away and drowned. He is one of many to have perished in the floods.

Jordan personifies the spirit of the hope, courage, selflessness and sacrifice expressed beautifully in the Australian national anthem. The second verse runs:

Beneath our radiant Southern Cross,
We'll toil with hearts and hands,
To make this Commonwealth of ours
Renowned of all the lands,
For those who've come across the seas
We've boundless plains to share,
With courage let us all combine
To advance Australia fair.
In joyful strains then let us sing,
Advance Australia fair.

I love Australia and have spent many years working and living there. My heart is in it for them.

Take courage and advance, Australia Fair.


Thursday, January 27, 2011

Czech Out Chuck

Saatchi & Saatchi Prague brilliantly tapped a cultural phenomenon in a new campaign for T-Mobile that swept across the Czech Republic over the holidays. Czechs across the board have taken an instant liking to a series of fun ads featuring martial arts star Chuck Norris, who is fast becoming a Hasselhoff-like icon across Central Europe thanks to the campaign.

The ads show Norris in a Czech household at Christmas. In one he faints when a housewife raises a mallet to kill a fresh carp for dinner (a Czech Christmas custom). In another he stands by somewhat unsure as a hapless man of the house inadvertently knocks over the Christmas tree and destroys his TV set while trying to impress Norris with his best martial arts moves.

As well as being great for a laugh, the ads connect with a deeper back story.

Norris first became known to Czechs through smuggled videotapes of his action films in the 1980s before the collapse of communism. Then when the Czech Republic allowed US TV shows to run in the 90s he became famous as Walker, Texas Ranger. As such Norris – now 70 – has a nostalgic and intergenerational appeal. The new ads have also connected him with a new, digital generation – on YouTube the ads have 4.5 million hits and counting.

Then there’s the fact that the question of just how tough Norris is has become a long-running joke over the years. Put him in a ‘real’ everyday household and it becomes that much funnier.

This is classic Lovemarks stuff, and shows the power of storytelling. Through his long association with TV – the ultimate storytelling medium – and different eras, Norris evokes past, present and future. Because of that the ads create an instant emotional connection. And above all, they’re fun. Congrats to the team in Prague and at T-Mobile. Watch the ads here.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


10 hours at the Hospital for Special Surgery today. Dr. Altchek, Keith Williamson and their team performed at peak.

Left knee all back in place. Crutches, knee brace and rehab is the order of the day. 12 weeks to go. Hard work ahead, starting tomorrow. Can't wait!

Thanks for all the positive support I've received.

Image source: David Mayman MD

Video Talks from the RSA

I posted two whiteboard videos towards the end of last year – audio lectures on fascinating subjects combined with quirky, fun illustrations of the innovative concepts being discussed that unfold in real time while you watch, see here and here. These simple but compelling pieces are perfect examples of how sisomo works.

The website of the 254-year-old Royal Society for the encouragement of Arts, Manufactures, and Commerce in the U.K. (RSA) has smartly reinvented itself as a platform for “21st Century Enlightenment,” with its whiteboard and other videos of “talks”, the category invented, or rather resurrected, by TED in the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

The RSA has reenergized its program with cool features like the whiteboard video series, called RSAnimate. I already wrote about Ken Robinson’s lecture on “Changing Education Paradigms”, but I was also blown away by the previous installment in the series, RSA CEO Matthew Taylor’s talk on what 21st century enlightenment means.

Taylor’s main point is that today’s many challenges require us to think differently and that means embracing a new, “self-aware, socially-embedded model of autonomy”. His model urges us to incorporate recent insights into human behavior and look at our reactions to events without being captive to them, which will help us extend the reach of empathy and create a more collaborative, sustainable world. Still with us?

What I really like about Taylor’s position is its emphasis on qualities of the Age of Now. In the 21st century, we need to accept and adapt to constant change without losing sight of our commitments to each other and the earth itself.

Another RSA video features writer Kathryn Schulz on “Being Wrong”. Schulz makes the case for error as a key driver of ultimate success and breakthrough and offers this insight as central to any vision of 21st century enlightenment.

Add the RSA to your bookmarks – it’s become at least a weekly must-see, along with TED and BigThink. Below are additional selections worth checking out:

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Freud’s Surging Popularity in China

China’s economy is set to become as big as that of the United States, by some estimates as early as 2027. Too often though, commentators speak about Chinese consumers like they’re some kind of monolith, somehow different from other customers. Yes, they represent truly enormous collective purchasing power, both now and increasingly in the future. But evidence is building that individual Chinese consumers are ultimately looking for high-quality products they can have an emotional connection to.

This point was driven home in a recent article from China Daily, “Screens and dreams fuel Freud fever,” about the explosive popularity there of Sigmund Freud. Libraries have loaned out every copy of The Interpretation of Dreams, first published in 1899. Bookstores are sold out. Tens of thousands of Chinese students have sought training to become psychoanalysts. And the blockbuster-in-the-U.S. Inception, set in a stunning dream world and owing much to Freud’s theories – and predicted to bomb in China – was a smash.

The New Yorker also reported on the trend, with an article “Meet Dr. Freud” commenting on the Chinese hunger to explore psychiatry. Where China had around 60 psychiatrists for a population of 500 million in 1949 – reflecting the status of mental health as a social taboo – a surging interest is now fuelling initiatives like web-based psychotherapy courses and analysis between American therapists and Chinese patients over Skype.

Driving this phenomenon is the simple human desire to understand the mysteries of our interior lives. As one man interviewed by the China Daily, Zhong Juntao, says, referring to Inception, “I might not be able to have multi-layered dreams like they do in the movie, but I want to know more about my subconscious.” Zhong keeps The Interpretation of Dreams, along with Liao Yuepeng’s Everyday Magic Hypnotism, within reach at his Beijing apartment.

While Freud and his works were introduced to China in 1920, they became unpopular during the Cultural Revolution of the 1960s and 70s. As China opened its economy and society beginning in the 1980s, the world-changing father of psychoanalysis began to stage a comeback. Now he’s a superstar. What drives the recent explosion of interest? The China Daily article quotes Harvard anthropologist Huang Hsuan-ying, who says, “[Freud’s] psychoanalysis deals with ordinary things, such as quarrels, pride and pressure. These things echo with the current state of mind of many Chinese."

That state of mind is worth remembering as we contemplate the opportunities to be found in the ever expanding Chinese market for consumer goods.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Knees Up

This week I was due in Milan and Amsterdam to give speeches. Instead I will be spending several hours at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York.

I injured my knee over the New Year. On Martin Luther King Day I was subjected to a sonogram and an MRI both of which I hoped would tell me I had a sprain and dislocation which would heal with physical therapy. No such luck. I have torn my ACL (a favorite of Premier League Footballers), torn the lateral meniscus, the medial meniscus (a favorite of skiers), and sprained the MCL ... by playing tennis ... which is not even a contact sport.

Thanks to my NY trainer Dan Harvey’s connections, he was able to get me scheduled to see the Chief of Sports Medicine at the Hospital, a terrific surgeon called David Altchek. He handles the shoulders, elbows and knees of the New York Mets and the US Davis Cup team, so this was a piece of cake for him. The surgery will be followed by crutches, a full leg brace and rehab. Yuk.

Over the past week since the diagnosis the trick has been to get the leg as strong as possible before the operation and to keep the spirit optimistic, focused and moving forward.

This kind of injury certainly makes you feel for professional athletes when they are laid up. I can function and hopefully work close to max potential to keep me occupied. They can’t. Keep well Ali Williams!

I’m grounded until the stitches come out February 3. So I’ll try to use this time positively as we all look forward to a new year.


Agency of the Year Awards

Here is a note I sent out to everyone in the Saatchi & Saatchi Network today. KR.

2010 was tough for all of us.

But we stuck to our values and beliefs, ended the year strongly and are in good shape for 2011.

Today Ad Age announced that:

Congratulations to Pablo, Cynthia, Chris and all their people.

They’ve shown us the way for 2011.

Their belief in creating Lovemarks never wavered even in tough times.

A magical boost for what I’m sure will be a positive 2011 for all of us.

PS: “The music on the video is “Seasons of Love”, the theme song of the musical “Rent”.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

HBR 24

The Harvard Business Review lists 24 actions for 2011 in the HBR Agenda, a collection of posts by a group of business and management leaders, sharing their plans for the year ahead. There’s an exciting mix of projects here – for example:
  • Vijay Govindarajan wants to help design a $300 house with basic modern services such as running water and electricity, and shared access to all of the modcons, turning poverty alleviation into a massive opportunity for business to make a difference.
  • Clay Shirky is studying design as a key driver behind the quality of our online conversations – looking at why some sites enjoy genial exchanges where others are hijacked by attention seekers.
  • Robert I. Sutton, in a similar vein, is writing a book on how to ‘scale’ constructive behavior.
  • A.G. Lafley will be working with Boards and CEOs to develop better succession planning processes at a time when great business leadership matters more than ever.
  • Michael Porter is working with Robert Kaplan to lower the real cost of healthcare – a critical project as healthcare costs in the US and elsewhere are on the rise.
These are just a few of the two dozen initiatives on the Agenda, and as HBR points out, one of the best things about so many of them is that they focus on challenges bigger than business. I’ve been talking about the potential for business to make the world a better place for a while now and couldn’t agree more. Read more about what’s on the Agenda here.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Take Me Higher

A personal highlight for me in the first part of 2011 will be helping to choose the Hillary Institute of International Leadership’s annual laureate, in my capacity as a member of the Hillary Summit, the Institute’s governing Board.

The Institute was launched in 2007 to honor Sir Edmund Hillary, the inspirational New Zealander who became the first person to summit Mount Everest in 1953 with Sherpa Tenzing Norgay. As well as conquering the world’s tallest peak and undertaking many other expeditions around the world, Sir Edmund’s life was distinguished by his environmental and humanitarian work, which made a profound difference for the Sherpa people in Nepal.

In that pioneering spirit, the Institute keeps a global watch list of exceptional leaders who are mid-career and blazing an inspirational path in a critical leadership area. Once a year it names a laureate and every four years it awards the Hillary Step, a USD$100,000 prize named after the almost vertical 40-foot cliff-face that was the final hurdle for Hillary and Norgay in their conquest of Everest.

For 2008-2012 the Hillary Institute is focused on recognizing, rewarding and nurturing leaders in the area of Climate Change Solutions. The first laureate was social entrepreneur, author and renewable energy champion Jeremy Leggett (below, left), who is leading change by example through his solar energy company Solarcentury, and charity SolarAid.

The second laureate was Peggy Liu (below, right), Chair of the Joint US-China Collaboration on Clean Energy (JUCCCE). JUCCCE is a Non-Profit organization dedicated to visibly changing the way that China creates and uses energy, making a critical contribution to global sustainability.

Climate change is a high mountain to climb, but as Sir Ed once said it’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves. To make a difference everyone will have to play their part, and inspirational leadership will be essential.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Got a Moment?

If you do and you have an iPhone or i-Screen, there’s a good chance you might be sneaking in a game of Angry Birds. This deceptively simple game has stormed the iPhone app charts, with millions of copies sold since it went on sale last year, and counts the likes of UK Prime Minister David Cameron and author Salman Rushdie among its player base.

So what’s the appeal? The concept is simple enough. Cute but clearly grumpy birds load themselves into a slingshot, and you fling them across the screen to wipe out a bunch of green pigs who are guilty of using the birds’ eggs for a fry-up. You get points for every pig you pop, and once they’re all gone you move through to the next level. Fans say it’s hopelessly addictive.

Last year the Wall Street Journal suggested that one part of the charm of games like Angry Birds is that they’re designed to be played in short bursts. They’re easy to get into and are a great way to snatch a moment of fun in the middle of a demanding schedule. A 2008 study found these kinds of “casual games” were most often played while people were waiting for an appointment, and appeared to contribute to a measurable drop in stress levels.

The Age of Now strikes again. Through ubiquity of technology and screenery, fuelled by creativity, every minute can get a shot of fun.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Power of Play

Last year’s Nobel Prize in Physics went to two professors from the University of Manchester for groundbreaking experiments with a material called graphene.

Graphene has the potential to one day make your iPad feel about as dynamic as a brick. It’s thin (one atom thick), strong (100 times stronger than steel), light, transparent and conducting. It could be used for things like touch screens, solar cells, gas censors, DNA sequencing, faster computer chips and bendable electronics. A one meter square hammock made from graphene could hold a four kilogram cat, and would weigh as much as one of its whiskers.

Andre Geim and Konstantin Novoselov were awarded the Nobel Prize in October for being the first to pin this “two-dimensional” material down and tell us about it. And what I like most about this story is their reputation for playfulness as a way to discovery. Where others failed, these guys managed to extract graphene from graphite (that’s the stuff in your pencil) by, as a first step, sticking it between two ends of Scotch tape and pulling it apart again. And again. And again.

I’m not surprised that one of these guys once made a frog levitate in a magnetic field to demonstrate the principles of physics: it’s the sign of a mind that understands the power of play. It’s thanks to this kind of nimble thinking that we will one day be able to make the almost unimaginable a reality.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Ritz Carlton Magic

Well, the New Year has started with a bang. We celebrated New Year in Auckland with a drop in from Italy. Renzo Rosso, the founder of Diesel, and 5 companions descended on New Zealand on a whim to escape the freezing cold of Europe. They had a great time in Queenstown and the Bay of Islands, the highlight of which was a fantastic New Year's Eve celebration on the Viaduct of Auckland with fireworks and fun aplenty courtesy of Simon Gault, Robert, and Euro. One of the best restaurants in the Southern Hemisphere.

Things heated up quickly with Saatchi & Saatchi New York winning a global assignment for Lenovo and Adam Werbach’s sustainability team winning a British Gas solar energy project.

I left New Zealand on Tuesday evening on our great national airline only to arrive in San Francisco to find all flights to New York cancelled because of an impending snowstorm. Nothing was going into Kennedy, LaGuardia, or Newark for the next 24 hours at least.

Rather than going into the city (I forgot to mention I dislocated my knee over the holidays and I'm having trouble walking), I found the Ritz Carlton had a beautiful isolated property about 25 miles from the airport in California farm country at Half Moon Bay. They were gracious enough to find me a room and then (as I'm the lucky recipient of one of their privileged cards) upgraded me into a private Scottish looking cottage complete with roaring fireplace on the golf course overlooking the ocean. The people here have been warm and friendly and have gone way over the edge to make this walk-in's stay as comfortable as possible. Anya, the receptionist, even called me 15 minutes after my arrival asking solicitously "Would you like a pot of hot tea?" I responded that I must have looked distressed and despondent and she did say that it looked as if I might have had better days.

This personal touch was much appreciated but paled in comparison when later that evening housekeeping turned down my room. After they left I went into the bedroom to see a beautiful framed 8 x10 photograph of Stella and Chloe. A miracle. A beautiful deluxe gold photo frame with that magic photo of Stella holding Chloe in the hospital. My heart skipped a beat and my whole world changed.

Talk about intimacy. This had nothing to do with customer service. This had everything to do with customer delight.

The Ritz Carlton are known throughout the world for flawless customer service. But this was heart touching, heart moving customer service.

Chapeau, chapeau to Bernd Kuhlen and his staff at the Ritz Carlton Half Moon Bay.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Hands across the water

The DO ONE THING sustainability philosophy takes on new meaning tonight in Times Square New York City when teams compete in the world endurance hand-shaking competition (the Guinness record is 19 hours and 35 minutes). I was sitting on the plane from Auckland to San Francisco across from one of the competitors Don Purdon (above left) who got in touch to let me know the details. He and co-Team New Zealand member Alastair Galpin (right), a professional record-breaker, are supporting the Auckland Down Syndrome Association in the competition. Several other charities benefit from this 2011 exuberant madness and magic. The event has teams from NZ, Nepal, Los Angeles and San Francisco (what a geographic binding this is) and starts tonight at 8pm by TKS in Times Square on 7th Avenue. Their bios follow. The event will be streamed live on

A native of South Africa now living in Auckland, New Zealand, Alastair Galpin took to world record-breaking in 2004 after being inspired by a record-setting rally driver in Kenya. Today, he promotes the work of social and environmental causes and has been officially recognized as the second greatest Guinness World Records™ breaker of the decade: 2000-2009. “That boosted my enthusiasm a hundred-fold,” he says. “The great thing about breaking world records is there's so much flexibility and adaptability, allowing record breakers to become increasingly adventurous.” He set the original “Longest Continuous Handshake” record. As training, Galpin has spent weeks walking his neighborhood with ice packs tied to his arm, with the right sleeve cut off, shaking a bottle of sandwich spread.

Don Purdon is a Management Consultant by day and an endurance athlete by night. Solving Organization Design and Change problems for clients is what keeps him intellectually challenged – but his endurance running events keep his life in balance: the most recent endurance event was a 21km run across Mount Ruapehu in New Zealand. For Purdon, this world record attempt is another challenge in his quest to push himself to the limits. In this physically and psychologically challenging event, he will draw on his background in Sport Psychology. He trained as an Organizational Psychologist, and has worked as a Sport Psychologist, helping various athletes and NZ sport teams in getting the mental side of the game right. Purdon believes that his extensive background in playing the guitar will help him break the record with Galpin. Purdon, who has had a guitar in his hands almost every day since he was twelve years old, says “that up and down strumming motion is exactly the same as a handshake!”

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

TV Land

Three years ago some people laughed when I said TV would remain the dominant medium for our lifetime ... and would continue to grow. Yet continue to grow it does – TV is unstoppable in the Screen Age.

AdAge’s recent study of media trends indicates that despite the Internet we’re watching more TV, not less. The average American watched 280 minutes of TV each day in 2009 (close to five hours), a three-minute increase on the previous year. Elsewhere in the world the trend is similar, with the average human being watching three hours and 12 minutes worth of TV a day. Yes to games, social media, instant messaging and geo-tagging and all the other things that we’re doing, the big kahuna in the room is the television set.

As noted last year, the big change has been in what we’re watching on TV. Audiences in developed countries are becoming more and more fragmented as new TV channels and programmes proliferate and garner new niche audiences. At the same time, AdAge confirms that there are still programmes that have mass appeal – the likes of American Idol and its counterparts around the globe. Arguably the difference now is that these programmes just have to be that much better than their predecessors to achieve that mass.

Whatever channel you watch, or how, it’s clear that the television mix of sight, sound and motion wrapped in the ancient and magical art of storytelling, is still the modern thing. Here’s to TV scriptwriters, programmers, format developers and producers for keeping us engaged and often enthralled.

Monday, January 10, 2011


I spent Christmas and the New Year in New Zealand, replenishing the spirit and drawing inspiration from a new book by Nick Danziger and James Kerr: Mana.

Mana means respect.
It means courage.
It means integrity, authority and charisma.

It doesn’t translate easily into English, it’s not a literal thing, it’s a feeling, a way of being. It’s about building a legacy and building respect.

The world needs leaders with Mana. Everyone has some... we must allow it to show itself, to embrace it, to live it, and not be afraid of it.

The book follows the All Blacks for a year.

It stresses:
  • Whakatau - Accountability
  • Whaainga ki tutukitanga - Achievement
  • Koha - Respect
And it inspired me to look forward to 2011.
  • Whaia te iti kahurangi ki te tuohu koe me maunga keitei.
    Pursue that which is precious and don’t be deterred by anything less than a lofty mountain.
  • A, hupane, A, kaupane, Whiti te ra!
    One step upwards, another step upwards, The Sun Shines!
  • Kia urupu tatou kaua e taukum ekume
    Let us be united not pulling against each other.
All profits from the sale of the book Mana go to support the Kids Can Stand Tall Charitable Trust... the All Blacks charity designed to ensure no New Zealand child is left out in the cold.

Thank you Nick and James.


Nick Danziger is one of the world's leading photojournalists. His work includes international best sellers Danziger's Travels, Danziger's Adventures and Danziger's Britain. He won the World Press Photo First prize for his 'mirror image' portrait of Tony Blair and George W. Bush. His photographic and film work has appeared in collections, newspapers, magazines and on television around the world.

James Kerr is a writer and producer. Mana is his third book. Previous publications include Twenty-eight Heroes, and The Alphabet of the Human Heart. His films include the Channel Four documentary, Dangerous Talk, in which he travelled undercover in Cuba to interview critics of Fidel Castro.